VENICE — All Faiths Food Bank announced Tuesday its renewed effort to “fill the ‘hunger gap’” when Sarasota County Schools close for the summer.
It notes that about half of Sarasota County Schools 43,000 students and nearly all of DeSoto County’s 5,000 students are on free and reduced meal programs.
To assist students who lose school meals and food pantries at education facilities, All Faiths Food Bank will again have its Campaign Against Summer Hunger.
“This annual effort involves behind-the-scenes fundraising to compile a six-figure match and then a community campaign that lasts from April 1 through May 15,” it said in a news release. “This year, the match totals $800,000.”
All Faiths and Gulf Coast Community Foundation started partnering eight years ago when they learned fewer than 5% of students receiving free-or-reduced meals had access to food when the school year ended.
Veronica Brady, at Gulf Coast at the time, and Keith Monda, with Feeding America, met with All Faiths CEO Sandra Frank to see how to help.
It noted many in the region didn’t understand hungry kids in an area considered affluent.
“It wasn’t apathy — it was ignorance,” Monda said. “People truly didn’t get the level of need in the community.”
That first year, the community raised $1.2 million to assist. Now, more than 35,000 kids in Sarasota and DeSoto counties are assisted.
“And infrastructure has been created, through partnerships with other organizations and various summer programs, to provide access to food for as many children and families as possible,” it said.
It has raised awareness of child hunger and raised more than $10 million to fight it between 2014-20.
“Nobody can look at the long line of cars at food distributions, with kids in those cars, and say they should do anything other than make sure those kids are fed,” Monda said in the news release. “They won’t be fed without us. Our responsibility is to make sure every child gets fed, every day.”
The 2021 goal is to raise $1.6 million and help 35,000 children, the news release said.
“We designed this campaign so that everyone could make a difference,” Brady said. “If you’re someone who has the capacity to be an investor, we’ll gratefully accept your investment each year. For every community member, there’s an opportunity for you to be able to participate in helping to make our community better.”
Helping out already in 2021 are the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation; Gulf Coast Community Foundation, and The Jewish Federation of Sarasota-Manatee.
For more information, call 941-379-6333 or visit www.allfaithsfoodbank.org.